Metro Weekly

Anti-gay apple grower suing over exclusion from Michigan farmer’s market

Stephen Tennes claims he was banned from the market because of his religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage

Photo: Alex Zorash, via Wikimedia.

Was a Michigan farmer’s market justified in barring an anti-gay farmer from selling his produce? That’s something a federal judge will now have to consider.

Earlier this week, the city of East Lansing urged that judge to reject a request for an injunction that would prevent the city from barring Stephen Tennes from its farmer’s market, The Detroit News reports.

Tennes, an apple grower, is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, and says he won’t allow gay couples to get married at his Eaton County farm, a popular wedding venue, due to his religious beliefs.

In response, the city did not invite Tennes to sell his produce at the farmer’s market, arguing that it can require vendors at the market to follow its civil rights ordinance, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Tennes has since filed a lawsuit, alleging that the city is violating his right to free speech and his right to practice his faith as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The city disputes that interpretation, saying it is refusing to invite Tennes back to the market because of his discriminating actions, not his beliefs.

The city has received a backlash from conservative groups for its insistence that vendors abide by its nondiscrimination ordinance. Another local farmer, Kyle Barnhart, has posted a sign on U.S. 127 that reads: “The city of East Lansing discriminates against farmers,” reports Lansing’s ABC affiliate WLNS.

Barnhart echoes the arguments made by Tennes’ lawyers, who claim that the city is violating its own civil rights ordinance by discriminating against someone because of their religious beliefs.

Tennes’ case is similar to others currently working their way through the courts, where people with beliefs opposing homosexuality or same-sex marriage are protesting the extent to which they can be punished for violating state or local nondiscrimination laws when they refuse services or goods to LGBTQ people.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case of a Colorado baker who doesn’t want to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. Another case, involving a florist who got in trouble for refusing to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding, is also being appealed to the nation’s highest court.

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